Science Programme

Science as Revolution: From Cottonopolis to Graphene City

Museum of Science and Industry

Manchester is the city where Marx met Engels and Rolls met Royce. ESOF 2016 will be a meeting of some of the world’s greatest minds, from scientific thinkers to innovators and scholars. Explore the programme below or download our mini programme for an overview of ESOF 2016.


Modern science was born in the turmoil of the Renaissance and has produced a succession of revolutions in the ways we understand and shape our world. In 2016 the major event of European science comes to Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, a city whose ideas have always challenged the established order. Our motto ‘Science as Revolution’ is an invitation for breakthrough ideas which could continue those revolutions to be shared and challenged!

There are nine core themes running through the Science Programme, spanning particle physics to pandemics, antimicrobial resistance to artificial intelligence and the Anthropocene epoch. The nine themes are:

Healthy populations

Medicine is becoming increasingly targeted, moving away from ‘one-size-fits-all’ to a stratified approach taking account of personal features, health data and new biomarkers, and extending to a personalised approach focused on patients and their history. We also face great challenges in fighting epidemics in the developing world caused by emerging pathogens such as the Ebola virus, and the broader issue of combating antibiotic resistance. Proactive approaches to health in lifestyle and sport form a further sub-theme – prevention is better than cure. This theme also encompasses the biomedical and socio-cultural challenges of mental health.

The programme will explore personalised medicine, child well-being, microbiomes, humanitarian medicine, eHealth and data issues and antimicrobial resistance.


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Material dimensions

Manchester, the home of graphene, opened up a global explosion of interest in two-dimensional materials, with new potential applications being suggested every day. Relatively recently, reports on the properties of single atom transistors have set researchers looking for other one-dimensional devices. Three dimensions are represented by more conventional materials revolutionised by technology for 3D printing of complex shapes, such as skeletons for the creation of artificial replacement organs, limited only by the imagination of the engineer.

The programme will explore the applications of Graphene and other 2-D materials, structural materials, nanomaterials and nanofabrication, functional materials, quantum and statistical physics, substitution of critical materials and biomaterials.


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Sustaining the environment

Concerns for the environment permeate almost all aspects of life. There is increasing understanding of environmental systems, their measurement and the ways in which science and technology could help to mitigate or adapt to environmental change. What environmental utopias and dystopias, past and present, contribute to our attitudes towards sustainability? The role of arts, humanities and social sciences in understanding, or changing, human behaviour will be of particular interest.

The programme will explore climate change, public communication, sustainable resources, resilience, marine heritage, strategic resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, physics and chemistry of the environment, clean technologies, environmental protection and monitoring, planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene epoch.


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Turing’s legacy - data and the human brain

As major projects address the nature of the human brain and our ability to simulate it, we ask where is this taking us? In the world of big data, what is the significance of the new analytics for scientific and citizen activities? What ethical, social and legal challenges are raised? This theme will encompass Alan Turing’s direct legacy of artificial intelligence and the interface of humans with machines, and the wider issues posed by data, online information exchange and communication in our society.

The programme will explore artificial intelligence, big data and behavioural analytics, mapping the brain, privacy, security, ethics and integrity, the human-computer interface, the future internet and the Internet of Things.


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Far frontiers

The excitement generated when science probes the most remote and hostile environments or embarks upon the most fundamental questions is a major factor in attracting the interest of the public, particularly younger generations. Europe’s Rosetta mission is the latest source of inspiration. This theme will take us to the physical and intellectual frontiers of knowledge.

The programme will explore exoplanets and astrobiology, dark matter, next generation particle physics, oceans science, astrophysics, next generation astronomy, extreme environments, weather and the atmosphere, space matters, geo-engineering and high resolution microscopy.


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Living in the Future

The way we live has changed drastically. Over half of the global population live in urban environments, while the nature of rural regions has also been transformed. Migration patterns also change the nature of societies. Global networks of communication generate new means of understanding and misunderstanding. Security is challenging governments around the word in the face of terrorism and crime. This theme will explore the implications for governance, systems, equality and more broadly how people live now and will live in the future.

The programme will explore city-regions and autonomy, governability of cities, liveability and lifestyle, security, transport, poverty and inequality, energy and utilities, robotics and assisted living, online communication and interaction, urbanisation and rural pressures.

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Growing populations, degradation of agricultural land and the need for sustainable sources of carbon-based products are some of the factors which demand a bio-revolution. Challenges run from field to fork and from land to the factory. Ethical and safety concerns feature prominently in public debate, stressing the need for responsible approaches.

The programme will explore food security and bio-economy, industrial biotechnology, agriculture and healthy nutrition, reducing, refining and replacing animal-based foods, GM challenge and opportunity (e.g. metagenomics), patents of biological or genetic material, synthetic biology, biofilms and supply/value chains.


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Science for policy and policy for science

What are the conditions for revolution in and through science? ESOF 2016 will bring together many of the thought leaders in science policy for Europe and beyond, providing the opportunity to debate how we should structure, finance, manage, regulate and deliver science and innovation. This theme will focus on the role of science in wider policymaking and original perspectives on issues such as the mechanisms and ethics of advice or give a forum to those engaged in them at all levels.

The programme will explore responsible research and innovation, science and the economy, science, finance and austerity; Inequality and scientific diversity, research infrastructure, innovation policies,  foresight in science, evaluation and peer review, science advice, regulation and integrity in science scientific activism, scientific publishing, open science and scientific education.


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Science in our cultures

Science is pervasive in our cultures and in the digital world we inhabit. In this theme we explore the energy it creates at its interfaces with the worlds of arts, leisure and the media. Sessions will illustrate these combinations, and demonstrate their significance.

The programme will explore science and its connections in the media, social media, art, cultural heritage, history, democracy, comedy and music and also include science writing and communication, technology and culture (e.g. participatory science), and pedagogy of science.


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To find out more about the session formats at ESOF 2016 please download the following document.